Jen Wilkin, who blogs at jenwilkin.blogspot.com, wrote a post in the TGC (The Gospel Coalition) website with the title above WHEN DAD DOESN’T DISCIPLE THE KIDS. All in all, it is a helpful post addressing a very common and critical problem facing godly mothers whose husbands are taking a back seat to the single most important responsibility a father has, which is to raise their sons and daughters in the discipline and instruction of the Lord according to Ephesians 6:4. Single moms and moms with unbelieving husbands have no other alternative but to take this responsibility upon themselves, she writes in her post, but the mom with a believing husband who is abdicating his responsibility puts the mom in a delicate position. Does she pray and wait for the husband to initiate the discipleship (I assume that is what she means when she says she is torn between wanting to honor her spouse and wanting to spiritually educate her children) or does she usurp his role and go it alone? Tough choices, I agree. In the end she opts for option two, using the analogy of a derelict crossing guard who is irresponsibly reclining in her lawn chair responding to an Instagram while children need her to stop traffic and get them safely across the street. If that should happen, she (Jen) would assume the role of the crossing guard and take over, making sure her children arrive safely to the other side, using the rationale that she reports to a higher authority than the crossing guard and so must usurp the crossing guards authority in that situation. Applying this to an irresponsible father who is not extending the figurative protective flag of his authority at the dinner table to have family worship, a godly mother must go it alone.
In respect to Jen and her desire to “get it done”, I would respectfully wish to propose that she has skipped a few steps in her urgency to do what must be done, alone. And in this haste, damage may be done in discouraging her husband and demonstrating to her children that his role is meaningless and replaceable. I would agree with her that in most churches, there are limited options. But, in an elder-led family integrated church, she would have more options at her disposal. So would the single mom and the mom with an unbelieving husband.
Most family integrated churches take seriously their responsibility to teach the fathers in the congregation how to lead in family worship and back it up with some measure of holding the fathers accountable to do so. Most FIC churches have already paid a heavy price to return to this philosophy of ministry (especially if they have paid the extra cost of transitioning a neo-traditional programmatic church to a functioning FIC church) that they will most likely go the extra mile to remain faithful to their vision and hold, as best they can, the fathers’ feet to the fire. After all, it is now the core of their philosophy of ministry.
Practically, how does this all work? For the single mom, she must do the heavy lifting of daily family worship herself, but if she were attending a FIC church, she would also be encouraged to allow another godly man in the congregation to become a surrogate spiritual grandfather whose job it would be to assume grandfather responsibilities over these fatherless children. Those responsibilities would include at least weekly interactions in small groups and grandpa times at least twice a month where fun activities could be merged with dinner in a home where family worship could be modeled.
For the mother with an unbelieving husband, the same scenario above could be used since most unbelieving husbands are not opposed to having more grandpas around showing genuine love for their children, especially if their own parents live a distance away. If that grandpa is a model of masculinity (think hunting here) whose marriage is to die for (figuratively and literally) then it becomes even more attractive to the non-believing husband to want this possible mentoring relationship. Admittedly, this is a tough scenario, but the mom is not left without hope. She has the children during 90% of the day and has myriad opportunities to give spiritual input into the children while she practices Peter’s advice in 1 Peter3:1-6 on her husband. See also 1 Corinthians 7:14.
For the mom with a lazy husband, her first step in helping him become the spiritual leader in the home is prayer. She needs to make this a daily request and enlist others who are confidential prayer warriors to take up her cause with her as well. Secondly she can encourage him by discussing the importance of this practice in a context he will listen (wives, you know best when to get his ear do you not?) in the most appealing and non-threatening way she can, giving him the respect he deserves. She can purchase the home worship materials her church recommends and have it conveniently placed at dinner time. Third, she can invite her FIC pastor and wife to have dinner with her family for the express purpose of demonstrating how family worship can be done easily, and simply in every home with a hymn (a new one each month) a chapter from Scripture (one a day) a memory verse (one a week) and a catechism question. Our favorite catechism is Training Hearts, Teaching Minds: Family Devotions Based on the Shorter Catechism by Star Meade. For younger children (ages 3-8) we recommend Ruth Graham’s book STEP INTO THE BIBLE.
Fourthly, she can, if all of the above does not succeed over time, discuss this with an elder of the church. That elder, if he is competent, ought to be able to take her husband out for a lunch, or an afternoon at the shooting range, and have a respectful man to man discussion about how things are going in his home regarding family worship. This does not need to be confrontational. If he claims to be a Christian, then he has already placed himself under the authority of Christ and Christ’s representatives, or under-shepherds as they are known; the elders of his church. It is their primary responsibility to give spiritual oversight to the church, and this includes instructing and guiding men to be the shepherds of their own families. By the way, this option is often overlooked in more serious cases of spousal abuse such as domestic violence. Before the police are called in to take matters to a higher legal level with no way out once charges are pressed, why not enlist the help of your church’s elders who are equipped to apply Jesus’ principles of church discipline according to Matthew 18:15-20. This would also be Paul’s advice in 1 Corinthians 6:1-8.
Speaking of church discipline, the church used to regard the failure of a father to lead his family in home worship as a matter of church discipline. Can you imagine how this would be received today? Here is a quote from the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood’s website. “For example, the Westminster Confession of Faith teaches that worship is to be conducted ‘in private families daily” (21.6), and the Church of Scotland included in its editions of the Westminster Standards a Directory for Family Worship, its General Assembly even mandating disciplinary action against heads of households who neglected “this necessary duty.’ 
Using these options as discussed above, a mom with a lazy husband does not need to “go it alone” or worse yet, usurp his role at the dinner table by stepping in and taking the lead in family worship. The greatest danger here for the wife and children is to cause the husband to feel even more disrespected than he already is, further alienating him from his duties. It will also teach the children that dad is irrelevant to the spiritual development of the family and teach daughters that it is okay for them to overreach and boys to abdicate when it comes to their future roles within the home, a danger I do not think any wife wants to see happen. I would love to hear your thoughts if I have missed something here, so feel free to add your comments to my post.
What options does a godly wife have if her husband is an elder of the church and is not diligent in his spiritual responsibilities? She’s tried praying, sharing her heart, even ordering materials with his approval and yet those materials sit there. My soul cries out for our children’s hearts and I’m afraid, especially for our sons!!
Thank you Haven, for sharing your heartfelt concerns for your family. I will add you to my prayer list. You say that your husband is an elder at your church but is failing to lead in family worship. In my opinion, this disqualifies him from eldership since elders are required to take the lead in their own homes or they are being hypocritical when they pretend to do so publicly as a sitting elder. How many elders does your church have? There should be a plurality of elders and that plurality needs to hold each other accountable for living a godly life, and family worship is right there at the top of godly living requirements.
I would sit down with your husband again and simply, and respectfully, ask him why he is struggling in this area. The definition of being a helpmate is to come alongside your husband and help him in areas he is weak and encourage him he can do it with your help. Ask him which parts of family worship he feels awkward doing.Perhaps you could do those parts under his leadership by having it delegated to you.
If he resists discussing this with you in a context that is respectful and where you are searching for a win-win outcome, then I believe there is something deeper that is causing the hesitation for him to lead in family worship, possibly a secret sin that is affecting his relationship with the Lord.
If you and your husband are unsuccessful in working this out with the above suggestions, then you need to go to the head elder at your church and discuss this with him. This is not going behind your husband’s back, but instead you are rightfully taking the next step in helping your husband by increasing the leverage you have with what is important to him to help him do what God has commanded him to be doing. Taking this to the next level is an act of love.
If you would like to continue this discussion in private, feel free to contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Is this helpful? My prayers are with you.
Thank you for your response! I will prayerfully attempt what you have suggested. You stated that “There should be a plurality of elders and that plurality needs to hold each other accountable for living a godly life, and family worship is right there at the top of godly living requirements.” May I ask what your elders do to encourage one another and those men in your congregation to live a godly life?
I ask because I’d like to encourage my husband to seek out godly men that will speak truth and encouragement into his life, as well as challenge him. And in turn, he can do the same for others. It would also make my job of being a helpmate easier because it would be men doing the “iron sharpening!” Thank you again for your time and I look forward to your response.
The elders at Cornerstone know that they are to be setting an example to the rest of the congregation in all areas but especially in family worship and I, as head elder, have the right to ask them how they are doing which I do. If they need help, I’m there to offer suggestions as to how Pati (my wife) and I do it in our home. I intend to make this a regular part of our meetings. Perhaps you may want to forward our discussion to your head elder and get his response. This should not be a threatening topic for a group of elders to discuss and I imagine that once prodded, they will also want to make this a part of their regular meetings as well. Let me know how it goes.